REVIEW: What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris
Dear Mrs. Harris,
When I got my hands on the hardcover edition of the third book in this mystery series, it was another moment when I wished I’d already read the other books in the series. But since, and especially with a mystery series, I try to read sequels in order I knew I’d better haul out — so to speak — the ebook copy I had had — for ages — of this book. So I did. I had read and enjoyed several of your historical romances written as Candice Proctor I was pretty sure there would be some kind of romance and I knew you’d get the historic details correct. The mystery to me would be how you’d handle the mystery in the book. Okay, that’s bad but I just can’t help myself.
Sebastian St. Cyr — I liked him. He’s got a certain style and flair but he’s nobody’s fool. He cooly lets the opening scene duel play out, knowing his opponent will cheat and beating him anyway. Then when suddenly faced with the charge of the brutal rape and murder of a young woman he doesn’t even know and attacking on a policeman during his arrest, he keeps his head, grabs the chance to avoid incarceration, puts his intelligence work gained in the Penninsular War to good use and sets about solving the crime.
But he’s not the only great character in the story. Kat, the young Irish actress, and Sebastian have a history, a present and I hope a future. Kat’s no dummy herself and has some interesting things going on in her life that she has to keep from Sebastian. Sir Henry Lovejoy, chief magistrate for Westminster at Queen Square is fantastic. His faith in new “scientific” methods is a nice contrast to Sebastian’s “seat of his pants” style yet he’s got that policeman’s instinct to play a hunch and goe with gut instinct. I look forward to seeing more of him. Tom however is very much a cliche. I’ve read all kinds of cockney servants, especially in the tragically shortened Lord Julian mysteries and even before then. Dr. Paul Gibson — does he have to have opium addiction? Is his soldier’s game leg not enough? He does do an interesting post-mortem which CSI fans will enjoy.
The story has great atmosphere – the cold, the snow, the ice and dark days. Stamping of feet in the cold, cold poor people huddled to stay warm, the desire for warm clothes. I like that the book is really told from POV of the streets instead of the rich and wealthy. I could really see problems wracking the country as it headed into almost year 20 of war with France. That helped me see Lord Frederick’s reasoning to end the war.
As for the mystery, I thought it well done and Seb’s handling of it seems realistic. At first he hasn’t got a clue – as when he realizes that he doesn’t even know how her body was found, when the killing occured or anything he needs to try and track down the truth. He makes some false starts but gets his feet under him and discovers a knack for it. I loved the turning point after Gibson’s examination of the body when he realizes that he doesn’t just want to prove his innocence anymore but rather wants to find murderer to get justice for Rachel. He regains the idealism that he’d lost during the war when he no longer cared which side was committing the atrocities. I figured that Lord Jarvis was involved but you did good job of providing suspects and red herrings.
I wonder just what is going to happen between Seb and Kat? Will he discover what Kat’s been up to? I think that what happened to Kat and Rachel is all the more powerful for not being explicitly spelled out — we get hints of what they suffered and endured and what’s gone into making them the way they are but you don’t bash us over the head with the ugly details.
One thing I did note was that it seems that Sebastian has too many close escapes from the law and yet too many times he just walzes around London and gets away with revisiting suspects and implying they’re guilty. And what was document from Seb’s mother that Sebastian’s father was so desperate to obtain?
Despite its length, I was caught up in the whole story and eagerly wanted to get back to it whenever I had to stop. If the next two books are as good, I’ve got some great reading to look forward to. I’m glad you didn’t stop writing. B
The Sebastian St. Cyr series: